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Role model stem cells: How immune cells can self-renew

When our organs age or wear out, their renewal usually depends on a few stem cells in the tissue, because the vast majority of differentiated cells have lost their ability to divide and generate new cells. A German-French team led by Michael Sieweke from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in Berlin and the Centre d’Immunologie de Marseille-Luminy (CIML) in Marseille has now discovered how human macrophages, a type of specialized immune cell, can nevertheless divide and self-renew almost indefinitely. As the researchers show in the journal Science, the macrophages achieve this by activating a gene network similar to one found in embryonic stem cells. In the future the findings could provide new directions in regenerative medicine and therapies.

The picture shows macrophages.
Credit: Sieweke Lab